Johnson has weathered several storms during his tenure as prime minister, but this may be one crisis too many.
Here’s what you need to know.
The immediate cause of the crisis was the fallout from the resignation last Thursday of deputy chief whip Chris Pincher, amid allegations that he groped two guests at a private dinner the night before.
What got Johnson into deeper trouble, however, were the contortions Downing Street press officers got into trying to explain why Pincher was in government in the first place.
At first, when new reports of Pincher’s historic conduct emerged in light of his resignation, Downing Street denied that the Prime Minister knew anything about the allegations, which related to Pincher’s time as Minister for Foreign Affairs. Foreign Affairs.
When it became clear that would not hold up, Johnson’s team said he was aware of the historical allegations, but they had been “resolved”.
When it emerged that one of the previously unreported allegations against Pincher had been confirmed, Johnson’s spokesperson explained that “resolved” could mean it had been confirmed.
Then on Tuesday morning, Simon McDonald, the former senior Foreign Office official, revealed that Johnson had been briefed in person on the outcome of an investigation into Pincher’s conduct, sparking a wave of resignations during the day.
What happens next?
Boris Johnson is still in control of his own destiny…for now.
Conservative Party rules state that if a leader wins a vote of confidence, they are immune from another challenge for 12 months. Johnson survived a vote of confidence on June 6.
However, the current crisis is so deep that it is possible that the 1922 committee of Conservative backbenchers will rewrite the rules in order to get rid of the Prime Minister.
The committee met on Wednesday and decided to hold an election for new leadership on Monday. Once elected, the committee’s new executive will decide whether to change the rules and move forward with another vote of confidence – a vote Johnson would be far more likely to lose.
Until then, the question is how much public humiliation Johnson can take. Dozens of lawmakers have now left the government and on Wednesday evening a delegation of cabinet members descended on Downing Street to call on the Prime Minister to step down.
One of them – UK Home Secretary Priti Patel – advised Johnson that the general view in the party was that he should leave, a source close to Patel told CNN.
More government ministers will almost certainly resign and opposition sources raise the prospect of defections.
What if Johnson resigns?
In the United Kingdom, the resignation of a Prime Minister does not automatically trigger a general election.
If Johnson were to step down, the Conservative Party would hold an internal election to choose a new leader, who would then become prime minister.
Johnson would likely remain in the post until his successor is chosen, as did his predecessors Theresa May and David Cameron when they stepped down in May 2019 and June 2016, respectively.
Barring a new resignation or an early election, the new Prime Minister would then lead the United Kingdom until the next elections scheduled for 2024.